Duncan Mackay

Since becoming an International Inspiration Ambassador in July 2009, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to see for myself the difference that this innovative programme is making to the lives of children and young people.

Sport is an amazing tool for reaching out and engaging people, and the Olympics takes the power of sport to another level.

It’s incredibly exciting to be a part of something that is using sport and play in such a positive way, both in the UK and in developing countries.

I was excited about visiting Hartford High School in Cheshire as I’d heard that the students had been working really hard to put together an interesting and informative visit for me.

International Inspiration is quite a complex initiative as it’s having an impact at so many levels - from children all the way up to governments - but the young people and teachers at Hartford High School were able to convey to me the way that it is making a real difference to their school.

School partnerships are a really important part of International Inspiration, as they provide an opportunity for teachers, children and young people to learn about and understand each other’s cultures, experiences and international development issues.

Hartford High School is one of 164 schools in the UK currently linked to a school overseas through International Inspiration, and is coupled with SMK Raja Permaisuri Bainun school in Malaysia.

A group of teachers from the school recently travelled to Malaysia to meet their counterparts and share innovative approaches to PE, sport and play in the classroom and their local community. In addition to hosting a return visit from the Malaysian teachers next week, I gather that over 100 students have received training to become Young Leaders and they frequently speak with their peers from Malaysia via Skype and email.

During my visit it was brilliant to be able to speak directly with a few of the students in Malaysia via Skype - they were interested to hear about how I first got involved in cycling as well as my competitive rivalry with Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang.

The most fascinating part of the morning was seeing the Year 9 Young Leaders organising a session for their younger peers in the Malaysian sport Sepak Takraw, which is a bit like volleyball but the players use a rattan ball and are only allowed to use their feet, knees, chest and head to touch the ball. It certainly looked like it involved a lot of skill and the students seemed to be getting the hang of it pretty quickly - I was really impressed! Next week the students from Hartford High School are planning on sharing the British game of Rounders with the Malaysian teachers.

My visit finished with an interview by two of the school’s BBC Young Reporters. They were keen to find out why I chose to support International Inspiration. Sport is such a brilliant way of teaching and developing all kinds of skills - confidence, teamwork, leadership and discipline; its benefits pay such dividends in everyday life. I’m supporting International Inspiration because being able to get involved in sport and play is every child’s right. I really enjoyed visiting Hartford High School and I’m looking forward to the next International Inspiration visit already.

Cyclist Sir Chris Hoy has won four Olympic gold medals, including three at Beijing in 2008